forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  The Watsons
Date:  Fri May 15, 1998  12:12 am
Subject:  Clarification of Standardisation of ASL

While I am glad that my original posting got everyone to think about the value
of ASL as a language as well as on a personal level, I should clarify a major
point. I was talking about standardising the written form, not the signed form.
I inadvertently upset at least one person, for which I apologise.

Bettibonni, you wrote:

>Somehow I get the feeling that ASL (or any signed language) is an inferior
>language and the purpose of any teaching technique would be to master a spoken
>Or did I read all this wrong?

I do not believe any language, spoken or signed, to be inferior to any other.
Each language has differences and similarities to others, and both combined are
what makes the study of languages so interesting. In fact I am a big fan of
ASL. I love the idea of the conceptual language. It is beautiful, and flowing
and a joy to be a part of. That is why I am so fervently in favour of
SignWriting. I want my son to learn to read his native language. I think it his
right. I believe that it will help him to learn English as a second language.
He should not have to learn reading only in a foreign language! Here in
Ontario, we are bilingual (well, supposedly!) and everywhere French speakers
and English alike can read instructions, sign posts etc in their native tongue.
If you go to Bradford in the north of England, you will find that Health
Centres all display notices in Urdu, Hindi, and several other languages of the
Indian sub-continent. In many places in the US, native Spanish speakers have
the same access. Why not deaf people too?

When I commented on the differences in vocabulary and grammar, I was not
critisising, I was merely intrigued to find this. Is it not interesting?
However, most languages in the world have a "standard" written form which
allows people with different dialects and accents to communicate easily and
freely. Let's look at Britain again. I was born and brought up in Scotland.
It's a very small country with only 5m inhabitants, but has been part of
Britain since The Union Of Parliament Act of 1707, and yet there have been
Scottish television programs which had to subtitled to be shown in England!
Write it in the standard form of English, and everyone understands. (But I
would not wish be rid of the Scots vernacular!!). Another example could be
German. There are lots of different dialects there also, and they have a
standard form known as Hoch Deutsch or High German. That is used for
literature, broadcasts etc, and also to teach to foreigners learning German!

It is going to be incredibly important that our children have access to
literature written in SignWriting. We know that increased exposure to books
correlates directly with raised literacy levels. The more we read to our
children in SignWriting, the more they see us use it to write, the more
interest they will have. It will be obvious to them how important reading and
writing are. Learning to read and write English for them must be a task almost
akin to us learning to read Chinese without knowing how to speak it. (Another
example of a country with diverse languages but one system of writing!)

Finally, in response to Melissa who wrote:

>As a hearing person desperatley and as quickly as possible trying to learn ASL
>for my Deaf child, I feel that if there were one standerd standard
>grammar one standard sign, it would sure make things easier. BUT....then I
>feel that would be putting limitations on the language. I love ASL, it is so
>beautiful, and has given me a way to communicate so completely with my Deaf
>child. So i have just learned which teachers prefer which sign and perticular

This is in fact how I learn it. My son will go to the local School for the deaf
so those are indeed the signs that I learn, but I try to learn others too - it
sure helps for deciphering SignWriting!

>I am interested in ways to introduce sign writing to my daughter. She is
>three. Anyone?

Keep typing or writing your own stories for your child and enjoy them together!
My 2 1/2 year old just loves his stories and carries them around till they
literally fall to bits. Already he is being taught the value of reading and
writing although it will be some years before he can read and write himself. A
love of books and writing is the first step, and the younger the better. Good


  Replies Author Date
78 Re: Clarification of Standardisation of ASL Bezella1 Fri  5/15/1998
116 Caldwell School Web Report Valerie Sutton Wed  5/20/1998
139 SignWriting Like Art Form Valerie Sutton Thu  5/21/1998
85 Re: Clarification of Standardisation of ASL James Womack Fri  5/15/1998
109 Internet Traffic Jam :-( Valerie Sutton Tue  5/19/1998
138 IDEA #1 Posting SW Messages Valerie Sutton Thu  5/21/1998
158 New Homeschool In Literacy Project Valerie Sutton Sat  5/23/1998
296 Re: Clarification of Standardisation of ASL Charles Butler Fri  8/21/1998

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